Peter Tatchell

Dozens of same-sex marriage supporters rallied outside the Church of England’s General Synod at Church House in London as members arrived to debate and vote on the issue on 8 February.

Protesters held signs with slogans such as “Stop Anglican discrimination! Marriage equality now!” and “Discrimination is not a Christian value!” written on them.

Organised by human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and Anglican LGBTQ+ campaigner Adam Chinery-North, the demonstration was supported by a coalition of Anglicans, other Christians and non-religious human rights defenders.

It is the result of Church of England bishops recently refusing to back same-sex marriage, instead proposing that couples who get married in a civil ceremony may have their union blessed in church.

This suggestion is being debated at the Church’s equivalent of a parliament, the General Synod, this month.

“The offer of blessings is an insult,” said Tatchell. “Blessings are what the church gives to pets like dogs and guinea pigs. The church’s stance is in defiance of the spirit of the Equality Act. It is against the wishes of most Anglicans, 55% of whom support marriage equality. We are not saying that churches must be forced to conduct same-sex marriages; only that those who wish to should no longer be barred by the Anglican leadership.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, faced backlash after stating that the position on same-sex marriage was made to “seek the common good” though acknowledged it will “go too far for some and not nearly far enough for others”.

Some even accused him of failing to end the discrimination many LGBTQ+ people face in the Church of England.

“We are here today as Anglicans, Christians and humanists – a whole range of LGBTQI+ people of different beliefs – telling the Bishops and Synod that enough is enough,” added the demonstration’s co-organiser Chinery-North. “We have listened to them talk about us, talk at us and marginalise us for long enough. We’ve been alienated, discriminated and abused for decades.”

Same-sex marriage is backed my a majority of Church of England members

Despite the Church of England’s position, a majority of members believe that same-sex marriage is a fundamental right.

More than half (55%) of respondents to a YouGov poll commissioned by the Ozanne Foundation said same-sex marriages should be allowed in the Church.

Less than one in 10 (9%) believed same-sex marriage to be “wrong” in some capacity – a decrease in comparison to recent years.